Disability groups across the country are expressing concern at the lifting of the Covid restrictions.
Mark Baggley, manager of Choices and Rights Disability Coalition in Hull, said his organisation was “shocked at how all the safeguards are being swept away in one dramatic move”.
He said: “We know many disabled people have been very cautious since the lifting of some restrictions and many have yet to go out for any social occasion.
“It has been scientifically proven that the wearing of masks can prevent the virus being passed from one person to another and this has given many disabled people some reassurance when going out, whether for leisure or work.
“It appears that ‘following the science’ is no longer government policy and it is now ‘a certain amount of deaths is acceptable’.”
He added: “We all want life to return to some sort of normality, but it feels that the current way forward is a gamble where dice have been thrown and the risk is disabled people’s lives.”
Dominic Ellison, chief executive of West of England Centre for Inclusive Living, said the UK government was again “rushing headlong into a populist action without consideration to the implications for disabled people”.
He said: “Everyone, disabled people included, wants to see society open up once more, but to abandon all protections in time to meet an arbitrary date is utterly reckless.
“To make it a matter of personal choice whether individuals continue to take simple precautions to protect others removes all aspects of choice for many disabled and clinically vulnerable people – opening society up for non-disabled people and confining disabled people to their second-class shielded lives, without the legal protections and support for their shielding.”
He added: “We implore the government to make good on its previous commitments to engage with disabled people’s organisations in designing a safer and inclusive route out of lockdown as we reorganise to live with the continued threat of COVID-19.”
Svetlana Kotova, director of campaigns and justice at Inclusion London, said the government announcement had been “a shock” to many disabled people and would “put many people at risk, including millions of clinically vulnerable people”.
She said the lives of disabled people and other marginalised groups were being treated as “acceptable collateral damage in exchange for the roadmap to freedom”.
She said: “Although the vaccination programme has been successful, there are still many people, including younger disabled people, who have not been fully vaccinated.
“Lifting all restrictions, when COVID cases are rising so fast, will mean those younger disabled people will be forced to go back into work, others will be exposed to higher risks of contracting COVID-19 and many people will be exposed to the risk of long COVID.
“Some people medically cannot get vaccinated, others that are immunocompromised may not benefit as much as others from the available vaccination options.